Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Today's Vintage Jewelry Word - Bakelite

Bakelite is an early vintage thermoset plastic made from phenol formaldehyde. It has fillers to make it durable, strong and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

The material is a US manufactured product, patented in 1907 by a Belgian chemist, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, who worked in New York.

Bakelite was first manufactured between 1907 and 1927. Early uses of Bakelite were radios, handles for pots and pans, castings for televisions, toys, etc. It was later used in the manufacture of jewelry.

Bakelite jewelry has become a hot collecting area in the last several decades. Genuine bakelite jewelry commands very high prices. It should not be confused with French Bakelite or "fakelite," which is a modern mass produced material made to look like bakelite.

Some bakelite material is translucent and looks somewhat like lucite. Other examples of it are quite dense, like the bakelite dress clip featured here. Once you have handled some, it becomes much easier to determine whether the piece you have is actually bakelite or plastic.

There are many ways to determine whether the piece that you have is genuine bakelite. For more information about Bakelite and how to test jewelry for its content, please go to the bakelite testing information page in my resource library at Vintage Jewelry Lane.

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